Trying to follow the dictates of other ages or ignoring the conditions of the age in which we live or the company to which we have been called can lead to a fruitless, confusing and frustrating Christian life.
This short study is for the believer who understands salvation. Salvation has never changed nor has it been subject to times and ages; salvation (rescue from sin and its curses) has always been by grace alone through faith alone. Of course, the specifics of the faith were dependent of the revelation of the age, but the mechanism has never changed.
One of the worst ideas which seems to permeate Christian circles is the idea that under the Old Covenant people were saved by keeping the Law and under the New Covenant people are saved by grace. The Book of Romans deals with the first part of these terrible heresies; Paul arguing that salvation, from Adam until today, all who are saved are saved by grace alone.
We have dealt with the second of these heresies (“The New Covenant is salvation by grace”) in previous studies. You can explore more HERE and HERE. Not only is the NC not salvation by grace, it has nothing to do with this age. It is yet future. For those promised the New Covenant, they have to already be saved.
So let’s take a quick look at “the present age.”
For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men, teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in the present age, looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ... Titus 2:11-13
Obviously, the appearing (Gk: Epiphaneia) could not have been the hope of Adam, Abraham. Moses, David or anyone during the time of the Lord’s earthly ministry. It is unique to this age. Some do not distinguish this age from the Pentecostal age. During that age, believers were expecting the tribulation.
This is seen in a number of passages (see: my short study on Timothy’s Circumcision) , but can be demonstrated by Paul’s directions in regard to widows and marriage.
- But I say to the unmarried and to the widows: It is good for them if they remain even as I am [unmarried]... he who is married cares about the things of the world. -1 Cor 7:8, 32 (written during the Pentecostal/Acts Age)
- Therefore I desire that the younger widows marry, bear children, manage the house, give no opportunity to the adversary to speak reproachfully. -1 Tim 5:14 (Post-Acts)
So how are we to instruct widows? In the Acts Age, there was an expectation of a terrible age coming (“the present distress” 1 Cor 7:26). Since that company was made up of the “Israel of God” (Gal 6:16) and “grafted in” gentiles (Rom 11:17-24, grafted into Israel, the root), she was rightly expecting “The Day of the Lord” as spoken of by the prophets and John in the Revelation (who saw his vision on “The Lord’s Day” or “The Day of the Lord”, Rev 1:10).
More from the context of 1 Corinthians:
- You come short in no gift, eagerly waiting for the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ, who will also confirm you to the end, that you may be blameless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ... (1:7)
- But this I say, brethren, the time is short, so that from now on even those who have wives should be as though they had none (7:29a)*
- For the form of this world is passing away. (7:29c)
*waiting for this verse to be the theme of the next “Promise Keepers” conference
This is the context of all the Acts Age epistles . SEVEN to the Jews from “the Apostles to the Circumcision” (I, II Peter, I, II, III John, Jude, James) and SEVEN from Paul to the mixed company with Jews “first” as was his manner (I, II Corinthians, Romans, I, II Thessalonians, Galatians, Hebrews). There are then SEVEN epistles from our Apostle, Paul, from the revelation of the Mystery of the One Body (“one new man”) in Ephesians 3 (Ephesians, Colossians, Philippians, Titus, Philemon, I, II Timothy). This last book from Paul speaks of “the last days” which was our warning of the days preceding the “Appearing” of Christ (Chapter 3).
A helpful chart for your consideration:
Two instructions which “differ”
We see that widows living in an age expecting “The Day of the Lord” SHOULD NOT be married (“not good”), but in the present age of grace, Paul instructs that widows SHOULD marry (“I desire... widows marry”). Unless you want to argue that 1 Cor 7 is isolated, we must deal with the differences. But if you argue that 1 Cor 7 is isolated, then the whole book becomes locked in a small time-frame, and it’s dictates become subject to being discarded.
You may rightly argue that my interpretation isolates 1 Corinthians. That is true, but I isolate to an entire age, not to one locale, separate from other locales and times. A literal translation of Phil 1:10 reads in part “test [prove] things that differ” (compare Young’s Literal Translation). We must see the things that differ in the Acts Age versus the Post-Acts Age, the “this present age” of Titus.
Different Order, Different Callings, Different Hopes
The believers of the Acts Age were expecting “the hope of Israel” which was “promised unto the Fathers.” Look back at 1 Cor 10:1. It speaks of “our Fathers.” who passed under the cloud, etc. That is Israel. Romans 9:4-5 specifically states that the “promises” and “covenants” given to the “fathers” pertain to Israel. We see this pattern in the Acts and in the Acts Age epistles (“to the Jew first,” etc.).
Pentecost was not something new, it was an extension of the Lord’s ministry to Israel. The Lord Jesus Christ stated clearly that he was sent to “NONE, but to the lost sheep of the House of Israel” (Matt 15:24). When he sent out his disciples, he forbade them go to any but to Jews in Israel (Matt 10). Paul confirms the continuation of this ministry in Romans 15:8 (“the promises made to the Fathers”) and in his final appeal to the Jews of Rome in Acts 28. Paul preached no removing of the wall of partition. He preached no end to the Jews following the law. He taught nothing that the prophets did not speak.
- But when the Jews spoke against it, I was compelled to appeal to Caesar, not that I had anything of which to accuse my nation. For this reason therefore I have called for you, to see you and speak with you,because for the hope of Israel I am bound with this chain.” (Acts 28:19-20)
- Therefore, having obtained help from God, to this day I stand, witnessing both to small and great, saying no other things than those which the prophets and Moses said would come... (Acts 26:22)
But in Ephesians, Paul tells us specifically of a truth concerning the “one new man” which was not made known until revealed by Paul after the Acts Age.
To me, who am less than the least of all the saints, this grace was given, that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ, and to make all see what is the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the ages has been hidden in God who created all things through Jesus Christ; to the intent that now the manifold wisdom of God might be made known by the church to the principalities and powers in the heavenly places... (Eph 3:8-10, Post Acts)
Let’s “test the things that differ.” Note that what was hidden was never gentile salvation (as noted salvation was available before Abraham lived and long before the Law was given).
And the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel to Abraham beforehand, saying, “In you all the nations shall be blessed.” So then those who are of faith are blessed with believing Abraham. (Gal 3:8-9, Acts Age)
So we live in a unique age which was hidden from the prophets and not revealed until Paul’s revelation after the Acts Age. In Part II we will put the pieces together on the different callings and hopes of each of these “New Testament” ages (although the NT speaks of more ages).
Again, these are only applicable to true believers. For info on true believers, please click here: WHAT IS A CHRISTIAN?